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Paralegal Working for Creditor

published February 07, 2013

( 14 votes, average: 4.6 out of 5)
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If you are working for business concerns, banks, or other such establishments, you must be ready to take on bankruptcy work. In such a situation there is a greater emphasis on cases with hundreds and even thousands of documents involving the potential demise of a business or corporation. Document control, computer and word-processing skills, and big-case management come into play. In fact, the work differs vastly for a creditor- and a debtor-orientation, yet you are dealing with the same court and rules.

Paralegal Working for Creditor



With creditor bankruptcy law you will file documents and prepare motions, review case files and motions and be the "fact expert" on those cases (There are lots of numbers and calculations in this area; be ready for numbers.), do docketing, attend hearings, and review court files.

Working for the Chapter 7 trustee

A woman who works for a Chapter 7 trustee exclaims that she enjoys the work because she "meets all the players" and gets to know lots of people. She works on a database for the bankruptcy system. She feels as if she is in the very middle of the process and enjoys bringing things to a resolution. This paralegal job requires staying on top of other people's business. "There is a relief," she says, "in not worrying about whether everything is correct before filing, and there is a sense of control in working for the trustee,"

This kind of paralegal work encompasses foreclosures, closings, quiet title actions, and the realm of title companies.

(By the way, title companies are hiring more and more paralegals because of their excellent awareness of the basic issues involved. Pay is increasing in some areas of the country and paralegals are being promoted up into management at title companies.)

The closing

The main tension-producing moment in this practice area is the closing. It is a moment in time at which everyone concerned must be in attendance, everyone in attendance must be of complete agreement, and everyone in attendance must have documents that agree with everyone else's. It is the climax of agreement coming from parties who may have been at odds with each other for days (or weeks or months).

The real estate paralegal has to have an eye for detail and an ability to bring comprehension, consistency, and accuracy to literally hundreds of documents. This process can be both dreaded and addictive. Understand that real estate class can in no way imitate what the closing is. One woman who owns a successful agency marketing temporary paralegals to a large metropolitan area once declared, “Never say you'll never go into a certain practice area. Keep your options open. I swore I would never go into Real Estate based upon my classroom experience. Five years later, I had five years of experience in Real Estate. I became addicted to that practice area.”

Your firm may represent the buyer or the seller in a closing, and might also represent the borrower/lender. The documents, checklists, and pre-closing steps differ depending on whom you are helping. The process is a constant interrelating of all the parties involved. Contracts must be drafted, as well as addendums and counterproposals, and all the while each must coordinate with the other to be sure there is agreement. Title work will have to be done while you are ordering a special coverage and a tax certificate. There will be a surveyor, who may have changes and corrections on his work. Loan pay-off documents must be prepared, assumable loans and new loans will all have to have the proper documentation, and leases must be reviewed and checked in case they might affect the closing. And all the while, you must be taking care that any documents that are not viable do not get mixed up with the new corrected versions. It always falls to the paralegal to double and triple check that all the documents are current and correct.

Work toward the closing must be done with one eye toward complete accuracy and the other on the clock. Inaccuracy can kill a closing, but mostly it can cost time, which is crucial at closings. Check the Deeds and Bill of Sale and all the pertinent loan documents. Remember you will be obtaining the canceled notes, releases, and new title policies. And don't forget those originals. With just a brief snapshot of what goes on at a closing, you can see the "adrenaline rush" that participants enjoy as they mount their efforts and watch something come to a resolved conclusion.

If you are working with a bank as borrower, you will be involved with corporate law too. There will be U.C.C. searches, certificates of good standing for corporations or certificates of registration for limited partnerships. There will be lien waivers and certificates of completion if a construction project is involved. There will be zoning questions and ordinances to be followed. In these situations paralegals are relied upon for the initial acquisition and verification of many of these documents.

They must be thorough and have great amounts of what many applicants call "follow through."

Real estate paralegals must know the step-by-step procedure for completing successful foreclosures and judicial foreclosures and be prepared to bring their special expertise to many practice areas that they might not anticipate. If one files for bankruptcy, real estate is almost always affected. Corporate law is often involved in real estate transactions, and since the land is what we are talking about here, probate law looms large in real estate practice, as old generations transfer power and wealth to new generations. Litigation often involves real estate because it is one of the world's chief forms of wealth.

The traditional setting still employs seven out of ten paralegals

This fact should tell us that there are lots of different paralegals out there in law firms who do not fall under Litigation, Real Estate, and Bankruptcy practice areas. These were chosen simply to paint a picture of complex activity done by thoroughly qualified and fully occupied professional paralegals. Thousands of paralegals work under various names of the specialty practice area.

Perhaps the first one, which in many ways is more challenging than the traditional setting still employs seven out of ten Paralegals any, is the general practice. This means that you must be prepared to study up on areas you have not handled before. Once these specialty areas are fully absorbed into the conscious and subconscious they can get much easier than they might first appear, but the generalist paralegal "hath a continual challenge": facing what comes through the door next. Most general practice areas are simply short ways of saying, "We handle about five practice areas, plus, Mr. Client, if you get a D.U.L, we will represent you." The list goes on. If there is an area of law, there can be a paralegal attached to that area who is deeply involved to the full occupation of that paralegal's time. Paralegals practice in several areas over a period of time and do tend toward specialization as opportunity pushes one toward one practice or another. While you are developing a breadth of practice area experience in your progress from entry-level status, various chances to focus on a specialty area will most likely present themselves to you. The beauty of the paralegal world is that you are never completely pigeon holed unless you desire to focus in on a special practice area. Whether by choice or circumstance a specialty can gain you more pay, a sense of authority, and a higher perceived value among your peers and coworkers.

The best pay in the largest cities goes to the paralegals who are virtual "authorities" in their practice area. An overall career formula may be to get wide experience as you begin and also work toward a specialty as opportunities arise.

In-house counsel

A new association is rising up to represent a growing number of paralegals who populate the halls of Corporate America. Corporations must have counsel, and small companies may have an attorney on retainer. In this situation, the paralegal deals with the company as a client and bills time. As companies grow, they continue this relationship with an attorney or switch to a larger law firm that can provide a full array of services. There may be a team of paralegals and attorneys that handle the XYZ corporation's legal matters: employment law matters, intellectual property matters, contract and vendor matters, and corporate matters.

Eventually the company sees a real need to hire an attorney to work with both the officers and executives and deal with outside counsel.

Sometimes the in-house counsel office remains small--the attorney has a secretary and maybe a paralegal. The meetings (small matters of representation and corporate activities) stay in-house, and then larger litigated or complex matters go to the outside counsel. This is the point where many companies are, in terms of their legal support. The inside attorney, a full- time employee of the corporation, and sometimes a vice president handle all legal matters and then determine what goes outside.

Corporate counsel legal assistants

It really does not matter what service the company performs or product it makes: you, as a paralegal, could be working for a company in any state that has hired an attorney who is full-time, in-house corporate counsel. As these positions become more and more numerous, the quality of paralegal work in this area increasingly attains its own identity.

Corporate law, employment law, intellectual property, and other matters increasingly fall to in-house support. A paralegal who works for an interstate gas company says she loves the job because of the "predictable variety and the travel." She says, "I travel just enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that it gets tedious." Corporate counsel paralegals are a growing army out there; and with a national association (the American Corporate Legal Assistants Association), the use of paralegals in this area will grow even more and benefit from the identity that the association creates.

Is paralegal work in the corporate world growing?

More and more accountants and executives in corporate America are concluding that they can hire attorneys and paralegals as employees. From a career point of view, a paralegal has an opportunity to be a corporate employee, getting benefits and the chance to be promoted within the corporation. The trend toward larger in-house counsel staffs (bringing in greater numbers of legal support to handle large litigation matters) means that the paralegal will become even more viable. That viability will increase because the billing system of the firm is not in force. If a paralegal can do a job and is trained for it, the paralegal will probably be given the responsibility, in view of the fact that the paralegal will still be supervised by in-house counsel. There will not be an economic incentive to give the work to the attorney.

A few specific growth areas are also contributing to the growth of paralegal employment within corporations.

Growth in insurance

A large and successful national insurance company is building an addition onto one of their regional headquarters. Why? Their litigation department will be housed there. Insurance companies across the country are concluding that instead of "farming out" their litigation matters to large firms, they can hire a firm, make them full-time employees, and keep them busy. The insurance company would no longer scrutinize large bills with hourly fees; it cuts paychecks to attorneys and paralegals who are their own employees.

In addition, trained paralegals are applying for and getting positions with titles like "policy service representative," for which they are being trained for several months. One paralegal exclaimed, "I have to learn about the insurance laws for seven different states in our region. And after that, I have to be ready to train our agents concerning their policies in all these different states!" Insurance is a field that promises great growth for people trained as paralegals. The paralegal status will continue to benefit them all the way through the promotions in their career as insurance professionals.

Corporations that provide legal services

As computerized litigation support grows more complex, many firms have gone into the business of serving government agencies and large corporations with special expertise. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, hires subcontracting companies to assist them in the determination of "potentially responsible parties." Consulting agencies serve the "potentially responsible parties/' which are usually large companies.

Paralegals who work in these companies work with database management systems and employ experience gained in practices like research and real estate. There is also a strong technical/scientific component to the work involved. People with science majors and experience that do not at first appear to be transferrable to the legal world could have backgrounds that fit in with fields like "environmental/' From toxic waste disposal, to chemical analysis, to the measurement of "ambient air particles/' the broad term "environmental" encompasses many technical and scientific disciplines.

Government

Paralegals work in federal agencies, state agencies, and municipal and county offices. They work for judges and court administrators throughout the state court systems. A paralegal in an office of a state attorney general says, "We have paralegals working throughout the offices of the state attorney general. Since we are the legal counsel for the state, we have our hands on numerous projects continually. From consumer fraud to working with the corrections system, paralegals are there providing the necessary support."

Paralegals work as investigators for subcontractors who are paid by federal agencies. Are they federal employees? Not really. And that is the reason that there is work at every level of government. Working for the government worker means that sometimes you are an employee of a subcontractor of an agency. So, under the broad category of "government" we must also include again, "corporations."

Trends in paralegal employment areas

Increased regulation by federal, state, and local agencies, the corresponding need for compliance and legal responses to these regulations, the continued rise of litigation as a remedy to conflict, consumerism, activism, and social evolution are all leading to increased legal activity. These trends tend to benefit the paralegal. The legal profession will continue to grow in different ways and attorneys will always have work to do. The questions lie in how firms will fare and how legal services will be delivered to the consumer. And yet with all of these developments, there remains a basic vital truth: the trained and skilled paralegal has a future inside law firms, corporations, government, and other diverse settings.

You, as a flexible and imaginative job hunter, have a much bigger world out there than you might imagine. The person who only looks under "L" (for Legal Assistant) and "P" (for Paralegal) is missing a host of "legal positions" out there for which they would be qualified to apply--if they only knew they were named "contract specialist" or "vendor administrator" or "policy service representative."
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